Overtime stories have been told about Uganda’s hospitality, and kindness to almost becoming the biggest refugee host country in the world. Look at all the love we got in us! Uganda currently hosts almost 1.4 million refugees, mainly settled in Acholi, West Nile and the Southwestern regions of Uganda. The Acholi and West Nile regions are dominated by refugees from South Sudan, who also comprise 1 million of the total refugee populace. This means that this is a sensitive region, given the many young people who come into the host community with reproductive health and rights needs.
That is where the Women, Adolescent and Young People Program comes in.
Under the GoU/ UNFPA 8th Country Programme, with the support of the Danish Embassy, Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) together with Care International, CDFU and MoH started on a journey to introduce a new programme dubbed WAY (Women, Adolescents and Young People) programme in 8 districts of Acholi and West Nile. The main aim of WAY is enhancing women’s and young people’s access and utilization of quality Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) services. It is further geared at empowering women and young people to become champions of change in ending SRHR and GBV challenges in their sub counties.
The beginning was the most interesting part. We sent out a call encouraging the youth to apply as youth champions and received an almost instant application from Neima Likiso David, 26 and a mother of 4. Neima was born in Yei Central State, Payawa, South Sudan. Currently, she is one of the refugees hosted in Uganda. She saw a poster of our call at a noticeboard, and was elevated by the opportunity.
“I was so excited and I hope that I can change the situation of my fellow youth especially the refugees in demanding for youth friendly services through the community dialogues” she said.
We took time to interact with different young people and stakeholders to understand the status quo of refugees and young people, as well as women, regarding reproductive health and GBV. It was great to see the cooperation from the district officials in providing this information, that further justified the importance of the WAY program. for example, the LCV of Kitgum, Mr. Omona Jackson explained that the biggest cause of violence in these communities is the gender divide, where men think they have the right to impart their will on women at anytime. He narrated a story of 23 year old Apoka* a hard working mother of 5 children, married to a one Ongom* who spends his day in the local bars around the nearby market and returns home only to enjoy meals and demand for more money to support his drinking hobby. The absence of the latter demand has time and again ended in physical beating, which has reduced the peace and happiness in the home.
The presence of such stories only further warranted why the program needs to be in place. The Woman councillor from Arua district expressed her gladness that the program was to benefit the district. She decried the high rates of sex work in Rhino Camp, Municipal Council and Ocea II camp, areas that have limited access to contraceptive methods and information.
“I hope this program can reach out to the youth in these villages so they can learn how to protect themselves” she added.
*Names have been altered to protect the identity of the people referenced in this article.